Animal attraction: The wonderful world of bi beasts“The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”
 J.B.S. Haldane, evolutionary biologist

Bisexuality isn’t limited to humans. Birds do it, bees do it; I’m not sure if educated fleas do it, but numerous animal species switch between male and female partners. Here’s a handy guide to those getting in on the action.

Dolphins Doing It

Glee may have jokingly called them “gay sharks” but they weren’t far off. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that, of the 120 bottlenose dolphins they were studying, males were “found to engage in extensive bisexuality, combined with periods of exclusive homosexuality.” During the mating season, male pairs (and sometimes trios) group together to herd individual females – who knows if it’s for group sex or gang bangs. According to the boffins, the male-to-male pairs have “very intense” relationships with “complicated alliance relationships” although they “don’t squabble constantly.” I bet there’s some glorious gossip in dolphin circles.

Fish **cking

Isn’t it always the way? You see a handsome fella copping off with another man and you just have to have him. No? Well, if you’re the female of a species of tropical fish (Poecilia mexicana) observed by a team of researchers led by the University of Frankfurt’s David Bierbach, you’ll know that bisexual males are way more attractive. Females are more likely to attempt to mate with males they’ve seen flirting with or engaging in homosexual activity. “Males can increase their attractiveness towards females by homosexual interactions, which in turn increase the likelihood of a male’s future heterosexual interactions,” says Bierbach. Poecilia mexicana are my spirit animal – the fag hags of the LGBT world.

Macaques Making Whoopie

Sex is power and macaques know it. In 1914, Gilbert Van Tassel Hamilton (fabulous name, darling) noted that same-sex behaviour existed largely as a way to make peace with potential foes. He observed that weaker females would offer themselves to the more dominant divas and that it was a “relatively frequent occurrence in the female when she is threatened” but that it “rarely manifested in response to sexual hunger.” Hmm. If Orange Is the New Black had been around back then…… But it wasn’t just the girls going for it. The boys were bedding each other too, mostly for protection. Hamilton noted that “homosexual alliances between mature and immature males may possess a defensive value for immature males, since they insure the assistance of an adult defender in the event of an attack.”

Squid Screwing

What happens when you’re bobbing along on the bottom of the beautiful briny sea? Well, it’s a dark and lonely place down there so if you’re a deep-sea squid you’ll probably just bonk whoever’s available. Research has found that the squid will routinely and indiscriminately mate with both sexes. When you could spend a lifetime adrift without ever happening across another one of you, you’ll take whatever you can get. Why does that sound so familiar?

Whiptail Lizards Whipping It

Ah, to be asexual – the kind that can reproduce without outside assistance, not the very human understanding of it as seen in my article here. Female whiptail lizards don’t need no man, honey! Which is good, because they’re rare, rarer than a positive news story featuring a bisexual woman rare. So they role-play with other females and “court” them, depending on their hormonal cycles. Those with lower levels of estrogen play “feminine” and those with higher levels play “masculine.” I would have thought it would be the other way around, but I’m no scientist.


Penguins Putting Out

Silo and Roy, a pair of chinstrap penguins from New York City’s Central Park Zoo, hit headlines way back when after they were seen to be performing mating rituals (although never any sex, according to those who were lucky enough to keep a close eye on them) and attempting to hatch a rock (we’ve all been there). Zookeepers gave them a real egg, who hatched into Tango. Tango then turned out to be a lesbian and the Christian right went crazy! Their story was turned into a children’s book And Tango Makes Three, a play called Birds of a Feather and a play/ballet for kids called And Then Came Tango (I’m sure her girlfriend is very good….). Silo and Roy drifted apart until Silo got together with Scrappy, a girl. Bisexuality at its finest.

Voracious Vultures

In a case eerily similar to that of Silo and Roy, two griffon vultures built a life together at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo (irony alert). Dashik and Yehuda reportedly had an “energetic” sex life while still managing to raise a chick together. Yehuda was the one to leave, moving out for a woman. Depressed Dashik took his time to recover and had to be re-homed to another zoo. Fortunately, he fell in love with a girl too and all was well in the end. Talk about complicated!

The Cowgirl Position

Homosexual behaviour in domesticated cattle is such a common thing that farmers and breeders have developed terms for it. Male pairs mounting one another is called the sublimely creative “bulling” while the women “go boaring” (a pun on the word ‘boring’, one wonders?). For the gals, it isn’t just a stress reliever but a way to signal their readiness to mate with the bulls. Perhaps you could liken them to straight girls kissing their mates in a club to attract the attention of the beefy (I went there) blokes.

Bachelor Groups Go Balls-Deep

There are many species for whom a “bachelor group” is the norm. Bison, gazelles, antelope, mule deer, walruses, sage grouse, and the wonderfully named Guinean cocks-of-the-rock hang out in all male gangs where it is not uncommon for homosexual pairings to form until one of them moseys off to breed. In some cases, the bond is so strong that when given the choice to mate with members of the opposite sex, they prefer to stick with the stick.

Giraffes Gettin’ Jiggy

Before they mate with a female, young male giraffes sometimes have a fling with another boy. Tongue kissing, neck massaging, hugs, full-body contact, and nuzzling might feature in the encounter. Scientists say it’s probably to help them familiarise themselves with the mating process before using the same techniques to court the girls, making sure they get things right. Sounds a bit like boarding school to me.

Copulating Koalas in Captivity

Wild koalas are strictly heterosexual but put them in a zoo and captive females will shriek male mating calls and shag their fellow ‘inmates’. Scientists at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, observed 43 instances of homosexual activity among female koalas living in a same-sex enclosure at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, some of it group sex with up to five animals in a fluffy orgy. Unfortunately, their behaviour is most likely due to stress and they were probably relieving stress, as well as preserving their sexual function. It’s those hormones again, folks. Estrogen triggers mating behaviour (which is why we get so horny at certain stages of our cycles) and sex maintains reproductive fitness and interest in sexual activity. Seems that we’re all hardwired to hump and “prison gay” isn’t limited to humans.

Boffin’ Birds

Black swans are notorious for same-sex unions. Two males will make a better nest because they are bigger and stronger than a male-female pair. They will, however, use and abuse a woman for her eggs, either stealing her nest or forming a temporary threesome to lure her in and pilfer her produce. Sneaky bastards.
Male oystercatchers are rare and there is intense competition for them so polygamous trios ensure the survival of the species. While some females tend separate nests, some threesomes watch over a single one. In these cooperative triangles the females bond by mounting each other, as well as the male. Scientists studying albatrosses in Oahu noted that 31% of all the pairs were lesbian with partnerships lasting as long as traditional unions.

Lion_sexLions In Love?

While we often think of lions as patriarchs with women surrounding them in a kind of harem, some male African lions forsake the females and form their own same-sex groups. There’s a rather amusingly scored YouTube video here if you want to watch them going at it. Lions have the strongest sex drives of any cat species, according to scientists (seriously, guys, weird job), and have therefore extrapolated that these encounters are quite purposeful. In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps with whoever it wants to tonight.

Bonking Bonobos

I’ve saved the best for last, believe me. Bonobos are 100%, consistently, exclusively, promiscuously, and without doubt bisexual. According to those who study bonobo boning, half of it is with same-sex partners. The ladies love each other so often, rubbing one another’s genitals (the clitoris is frontally placed) so much, that some scientists theorise that their genitalia evolved for this specific and highly pleasurable activity. It’s not just the girls, either. Males mount, fondle, and even perform oral sex on one another. Academics believe the behaviour eases social tensions and that they are essential to bonobo socialisation. Sexual practices are a rite of passage for females leaving their matriarchal groups; they gain admission to new ones through grooming and sexual encounters with other females. They therefore bond and have the benefits of protection and food. So, sex with everyone in your old social circle, followed by sex with everyone in your new one? Bonobos, I like you.

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A Jill of all trades, mistress of none, Kate has tried everything: prison psychology, volunteering with homeless people, teaching English abroad, and editing a magazine in China (thankfully not in Chinese!). A born procrastinator, she's been working on her autobiographical sex book for the past four years and has got nowhere. She's hoping to find some motivation on the open road - a born traveller she's hoping to leave for America very soon. Happiest performing her comedy poems at spoken word nights and getting inordinate amounts of attention, Kate is a whirlwind of a woman.

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